Parking zone petition to trigger debate

June 04 2013

A 4,300-name petition calling for a halt to the extension of the city’s parking zones has sparked a full council debate on the issue.

A 4,300-name petition calling for a halt to the extension of the city’s parking zones has sparked a full council debate on the issue. Mayor George Ferguson
A campaign by resident Michael Owen, who lives on the boundary of Redland and Westbury Park, has seen thousands of residents sign up in support of his call to stop the roll-out of 18 new residents’ parking zones, announced by Mayor George Ferguson in March.
Under council rules, a petition that attracts 3,500 signatures or more from people living, working and studying in the city triggers the right for the issue to be debated by all councillors. It is expected this will take place at the next full council meeting on June 18.
Mr Owen, who registered the petition on the city council's website in April,  said he has had support in collecting the signatures from a number of businesses in high streets across Redland and Bishopston, including Gloucester Road, Coldharbour Road and Chandos Road.
He said: “Thanks are due to those businesses. I have also used Twitter as a means of keeping the campaign going.”
A breakdown of the petition figures reveals the Bishopston, Redland and Ashley wards have the highest numbers of residents supporting the petition – around 300 each in Bishopston and Redland and nearly 350 in Ashley.
Speaking on the impact he fears the parking scheme could have on Gloucester Road, Mr Owen said: “Does the mayor really want to hamstring the livelihoods of businesses on Gloucester Road by imposing RPZ and more controls on car usage? How are staff and customers of enterprises in Bishopston supposed to benefit from RPZ if they cannot park near their places of work?”
The proposals, which the mayor says are aimed at tackling commuter parking, congestion and poor air quality, have been the subject of debate from the high street to City Hall in the past few weeks.
The scheme was at the top of the agenda for Bishopston, Cotham and Redland residents when the mayor was guest speaker at the areas’ neighbourhood partnership super forum on May 11.
During a question-and-answer session, audience members asked why the scheme needed to extend as far from the city centre as Bishopston, and raised concerns about the level of public consultation and the effect on shopping areas, such as Gloucester Road, if people found they could no longer park there. Mr Ferguson said the principle of parking zones was “not up for grabs” but the schemes were not “one size fits all” with details up for discussion in each area.  
 The potential impact on businesses was brought to the fore when around 250 people representing shops, including Gloucester Road’s Bread Store and The Fish Shop, garages, schools, City of Bristol College’s Ashley Down site and many others attended a business engagement event on May 22 which brought them face to face with the mayor. They  raised concerns ranging from the lack of parking for employees as well as customers, the cost and frequency of the city’s public transport system and the viability of the scheme for those whose work takes them to many different zones.
A proposed rise in the cost of permits was also questioned after it was revealed last month that the price of a first business permit could more than double from £100 to £240 with the second permit rising from £200 to £360. Customer permits – businesses can purchase five – would rise from £100 to £500 each.
Mr Ferguson again said that while he stood firm on the principle of parking zones, there was some flexibility in the detail, saying: “I recognise your fears – residents’ parking will be implemented because you are losing money from this being a congested city. That congestion is causing harm to our children through poor air quality, I’m quite sure you realise it’s a bigger picture and I have to take big decisions but all the detail is up for discussion.”
Exactly what details would be up for debate was called into question when the council’s sustainable development and transport scrutiny commission met on May 28 to study the proposals.
The report on the scheme, originally due to go to Cabinet on May 29, was branded “on the scale of inadequate to derisory” by Councillor Anthony Negus while chairman Mark Weston said if the mayor could not attend the commission’s next meeting on June 20 to answer questions “then we will move the meeting”.
Bishopston councillor David Willingham, a member of the commission, said after the meeting: “What is clear is that every part of the city has different needs and the current ‘one size fits all’ proposals need to be replaced with meaningful local consultation, with any scheme modified to accommodate local needs. Locally, I would urge my constituents to contact me with their views on these proposals.”
Mr Ferguson is due to make a formal decision on the proposals and whether to push ahead on June 27, after postponing the report for a month to allow time for more discussion and for improvements to the plans to be published, he said.
“I have made it abundantly clear that I want to listen to residents and businesses and local councillors, and am prepared to adjust schemes to local conditions,” he said. “As a result I have decided to postpone consideration of the report to Cabinet and issue revised proposals for consideration in June instead. This will allow me an opportunity to discuss the principles and details with councillors in the scrutiny process before the report comes to Cabinet."